The Zen of Steve Jobs & Raising Venture Capital Vol. II: The Meeting: Attract VCs and Win Them Over

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You don't get good data. People just naturally forget what happened earlier in the week. To grow the company, and to raise additional funding, Kudwitt just moved Crisply's headquarters from New Haven to Cambridge, and he hired Adam Ferrari , formerly CTO and chief software architect at Endeca, as Crisply's head of engineering.

Kudwitt says the New Haven office will endure, but he and chief scientist Adam Marcus , formerly a math professor at Yale, are now based in Cambridge. Crisply starts by asking you to define the various projects you're working on, or the clients you support. It then monitors your activity and documents uploaded with services like Dropbox, Salesforce, Google Apps, and Microsoft Exchange, and based on what it sees Crisply comes up with a draft of your timesheet.

It can track activity on desktop computers and also Android-based mobile devices. You can also designate certain e-mail correspondence or calendar items as personal, and it won't track those. We don't want to be Big Brother. This is about understanding where people's effort is going. The company has so far been funded by Kudwitt, but it has been selling its product since March , with "hundreds of companies using it" already, he says. Kudwitt says the company envisions its product growing into a kind of " Fitbit for business," radically simplifying the process of gathering data about what happens during the day.

Boston, Kudwitt says, "has a great tradition of developing business-to-business software, and leadership in big data. He also says Crisply is in the process of raising a first round of venture capital. A few renderings are below; in the picture above, the TripAdvisor building is on the right, the Boston Garden on the left.

In November, TripAdvisor broke ground on a new , square foot headquarters building in Needham. It is expected to open in It's a kind of robotic hand that looks and feels a lot like a stress ball. Filled with a granular material, in one mode it is squishy enough to envelop an object it's trying to grab. Then, when a vacuum is created inside the ball, the granules get pulled together, solidifying around the object.

The unique design enables the gripper to pick up a wide range of different objects, which can weigh up to 20 pounds. Empire has dubbed its product Versaball. The picture above shows the Versaball screwing in a light bulb. Empire says it has an exclusive license to a key patent filed by Cornell.

Empire came to Boston last summer. We hired one of Kiva's early employees who is great, and a PhD grad from MIT with a background that perfectly matches what we are working on. Now, we're raising some money and forming strategic partnerships, which Boston has been great for as well.

Empire also won cash prizes at seven business plan competitions, and has sold a few of its early prototypes. Video demo below. At the one minute mark, watch the Versaball pick up assorted chocolates without squishing them. One of the company's earliest backers was Amazon. Brooks is pictured at right with Baxter.

Eckert says that the layoffs are the result of Rethink deciding to focus on the market segments that have been most receptive to Baxter since its launch, including plastics manufacturing, consumer goods, and warehousing and logistics. Rethink has also been selling Baxter to academic and corporate research labs in the U. In an e-mail, Eckert explained, "Instead of a broad approach to the market that we have had in the past, we can now focus on the best segments of the market and continue to drive rapid growth with a smaller team.

Our volume trends are encouraging, our customer pipeline is encouraging, and we expect to see significant growth in , however we will be able to achieve that in a more focused manner with fewer resources. LinkedIn shows about 90 employees working at Rethink, some of whom were likely part of this layoff, so it's a significant reduction for the company's workforce. Vice president of product development Elaine Chen has also departed the company, but Eckert said that was unrelated to the layoffs. Chen confirms that the timing was "actually coincidental," and says her departure had been "in the works for a while.

Rather, the startup wants to make sharing and skinning easier. What does that mean, exactly? Lagoa's cloud-based software makes 3D objects accessible to non-engineers at a company, using just a web browser, and it can put a wide range of skins or surfaces onto rough 3D models, making them look much more like a finished product. Like the car above. Lagoa's aim is to "speed up the process of collaboration by connecting people," says co-founder and CEO Thiago Costa.

They can look at it with any surface, and talk about what needs to change. But the company's "special sauce" is its MultiOptics rendering technology, which layers photo-realistic surfaces like canvas, fur, or stainless steel onto those objects. The company's tech development will remain in Montreal, but sales and marketing operations will be based in Lagoa's new Boston office, led by Chris Williams, a veteran of both PTC and Dassault Systemes, two big local makers of 3D design software. Costa says Lagoa will also use the new funding to continue improving the software.

One forthcoming feature: being able to create videos of an object, spinning it around or flying a virtual camera around and through it. A six-person Cambridge startup called Exaptive is working on it, creating a collection of visualization "building blocks" that can be assembled in different ways to get new views into datasets. King started the company in ; Perez joined him earlier this year.

The startup has already been collaborating on data visualizations with early users at Harvard's Osher Center for Integrative Medicine , the Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis , and geoscientists at Penn State. Exaptive's initial focus has been on working with early users to build custom visualizations for their data sets, but now it is starting to license its platform to customers who want to create their own visualizations.

Eventually, King says that Exaptive hopes to create an app store or marketplace where anyone can sell visualization modules they have built, buy modules they need, and even combine two or more modules. King and Perez refer to these modules as "Xaps" pronounced "zaps" , and say they can be written in various programming languages like PHP, Python, and R. Video demo is below, as is a screenshot of Exaptive's software used to explore a scientific research dataset related to multiple sclerosis. BetrSpot provides a way for you to offer someone else money for their prime table or place in line.

It's a crazy twist on peer-to-peer commerce, but it'd be quite useful if it takes off. The app is still being beta tested, but Cambridge-based BetrSpot is developing versions for Android and iPhone. And we think that kind of market is useful in all kinds of situations, like the long line for the restroom at a football game, or the cardio machine at your gym during rush hour.

Rollert got a lot of ink for his previous startup, SpotScout, which had a similar idea: help people find empty parking spaces on the street and in garages. But that one didn't take off. So, he says, "We switched from thinking about space for your vehicle to space for your body. It's parking for your butt. Rollert says about people have been testing the app thus far. And he's hoping for a nice bump in usage on Black Friday, when he expects people to try buying or selling places in line outside stores.

Here's how it works Let's imagine you're on an overcrowded Amtrak train with no seats. You can post a request, specifying, for instance, that you only want a window seat. You name the price you're willing to pay. Once the app has found a willing buyer and seller, it shows the buyer the seller's picture but not his name and gives the two parties a password to use, if necessary.

Sellers can also post spots they're willing to vacate, specifying the price that they'd accept. Rollert and I met last week at Barrington Coffee Roasting in Fort Point Channel, and by chance, when we arrived, the place had only standing room available at a circular table. We waited a few moments, and a four-person table opened up, which we grabbed. Rollert couldn't resist looking at that as a problem his app could have solved.

What about you? Are there situations you can imagine wanting to buy or sell a spot? Post a comment I last wrote about Rollert in , when he was working on an early wireless networking idea for cars, allowing them to receive music files, e-mails, and traffic information. Shareaholic founder and CEO Jay Meattle tells me via e-mail that he plans to "re-focus my energy on product and distribution. Shareaholic says its tools are used by more than , publishers. Aside from enabling social sharing of content by site visitors, the tools offer site owners detailed analytics about what is being shared and how.

Meattle started Shareaholic as a side project while he was working at another local startup, Compete. Here's his post on Balazy joining the company. A Cambridge startup called Mapkin wants to revive that personalized approach to cartography, with an iPhone app that promises to "make GPS fun. Mapkin founders Marc Regan and John Watson previously worked together at Nuance, the Burlington-based speech recognition company, developing some of its early voice-driven mobile apps like Dragon Go.

In the photo below, Regan is on the far right, Watson second from left. The app lets you create and share your own routes, complete with written or spoken notes on points of interest. Regan says he used a prototype version of the app last year for guests at his wedding. It was a fun way to make the experience start when people walked out the door. Maps created with Mapkin can be shared on Twitter, Facebook, or via an e-mailed link, and the recipient doesn't need to have the mobile app to view them.

The four-person team is based at the Intrepid Labs shared space in East Cambridge. OneCloud doesn't have much of a website yet, and Crespi didn't want to say much when we spoke last week. But the founder of the company, Suresh Madhu , has been working on OneCloud since the summer of , when he left the Cambridge office of VMware. Tom Barone , formerly at Vlingo, is working part-time as OneCloud's CFO, and Crespi, right, says the company is currently hiring its first few engineers.

We'll go beyond that over time, but for now you can say that we're simplifying and reducing data center costs by leveraging the big public cloud guys. The company has already raised an initial funding round from Charles River Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners ; I was unable to confirm the exact amount, but one source pegged it in the single digit millions. Here's a video from June of Madhu talking about some of the ideas behind OneCloud. The funding round is being led by Bilal Zuberi of Lux Capital, who previously worked at General Catalyst, the Cambridge venture capital firm that provided CyPhy's first infusion of cash.

What makes CyPhy's drones unique is that they're tethered to a portable command station on the ground by a "microfilament" that's thinner than the cord on your headphones. The tether lets them stay up for extended periods, enables them to send high-def video to the ground, and makes jamming or intercepting their communications difficult. They're designed to be flown low to the ground, and even into buildings or under bridges. I wrote about the company last December , when it first unveiled its flying bots.

CyPhy's primary customers thus far, Greiner says, have been the Pentagon and the U. But the new funding will be used to develop UAVs for commercial uses, she explains, in industries that may include agriculture, mining, oil and gas production, and construction. But commercial drones likely won't be cleared for take-off by the Federal Aviation Authority before Greiner won't disclose the current employee count, but LinkedIn pegs it at about Several are iRobot alumni. On how successful tech companies are built : "There's actually not a lot of magic.

It's a lot of iteratively trying to make reasonable decisions, and get the smartest people you can around you. On the perennial debate about the best place to start a tech company : "You come to your own verdict. Obviously, there are good companies started all over the world, like Groupon in Chicago. Visiting and now living in the Bay Area was a really eye-opening experience. There's so much of an ecosystem, so much institutional knowledge of how to take a couple scruffy undergrads and shepherd them along to creating a billion-dollar company.

That's just unmatched anywhere in the world. On what's next for Dropbox : "We're trying to build the home for your important stuff," and also reach one billion users. They plan to move in sometime in December. What do Microsoft, Facebook, and Fitbit have in common? All three companies were founded by Harvard drop-outs, all three have headquarters on the Left Coast, and all three now have Boston outposts. Over the summer, it quietly began building a Boston engineering office.

Fitbit co-founder James Park confirms that the company currently has six employees working out of a shared office on Newbury Street, and says Fitbit is "aggressively building a fairly substantial team. Park tells me he is looking for a new, larger space in Boston's Innovation District. He says that Fitbit's first dedicated Boston office will be large enough to accommodate 40 to 50 employees.

Not bad for a company that, when I visited in September , had just begun building its first handful of production printers. They use a Blu-ray laser to transform a light-sensitive liquid resin into solid three-dimensional objects. My favorite video showing the Form1 at work is below. It says it'll use the new funding for hiring in Somerville, and also expanding the company's international marketing and customer support capabilities. One of the three founders, David Cranor, pictured at left in the photo, left the company at the end of last year.

In the middle is Linder, and on the right is Maxim Lobovsky. There's a fun story about how they got their initial funding which involves Mitch Kapor, a meal at Legal Seafoods, and a tweet. You can read it here. It happens about as often as you see an wheeler wending its way through Beacon Hill The company makes an app called PedalCoach that tried to encourage lead-footed drivers to save fuel. And the cost of fuel is 30 to 40 percent of operating expenses for most trucking companies.

There's also a leaderboard for each fleet of trucks, showing which drivers are hustling down the highway most efficiently. Baer, a former sales exec at the battery-maker A Systems and powertrain engineer at Ford, asserts that the app can save trucking fleets an average of five cents a mile. He says that some of that money typically gets paid to drivers who meet the company's fuel efficiency objectives. PedalCoach runs on an Android phone on the dash, and communicates with a small Bluetooth device plugged into the truck's diagnostic port, which supplies information about fuel usage and vehicle speed.

LinkeDrive's first customer is Arrow Paper of Wilmington, which operates a fleet of 10 trucks that deliver supplies to restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. But Baer says that there are 11 other fleets using the technology in more than vehicles. The company has 10 employees, and has already raised some angel funding, Baer says. Those last four are all veterans of Brightcove, the Boston video hosting company, which was also a proving ground for several members of Fancred's founding team, including CEO Hossein Kash Razzaghi.

Razzaghi, who goes by Kash, is pictured above with Big Papi. Fancred's iPhone app is a place where fans, sports commentators, and franchises can share sports-related news and opinions, organized by team, and build up points that indicate just how much of an authority they are. Fancred has 10 employees, and is still operating out of the TechStars accelerator office in Kendall Square. The Sox were the first professional team to take ownership of their profile on Fancred, and Mississippi State was the first university to do so, Razzaghi says.

The app is free, and the company is still pre-revenue. Disclosure: John Henry has agreed to buy this very website and the Boston Globe, but the acquisition hasn't yet closed. When I spoke with Razzaghi on Demo Day, he said he was in talks with Ortiz and his managers about joining the investor syndicate, or perhaps signing on as a spokesperson. She spent four years developing what became the Sketch Drawing Engine for Disney. The guiding philosophy, Frisken says, "Was that it is so easy to pick up a piece of paper and sketch out an idea.

We wanted to do that same thing with software, where you could just open it and start to draw. This past summer, Frisken, a former Tufts computer graphics prof, released a new version of the software, called Mischief. Frisken says she's thinking about an iPad version, too. The software got a nice bump when it was released in June, when Adobe blogger John Nack mentioned it. That led to about 10, downloads of the trial version in just one month, Frisken tells me. But the company, 61 Solutions, still consists of just Frisken and a handful of contractors.

She has boot-strapped the Cambridge startup so far, but may try to raise outside funding soon. The Mischief screenshot up top is by Carly Sanker. Zappix , a Burlington startup, wants to use the power of the smartphone to help you get satisfaction sooner. The Zappix app can also let you send a tweet or e-mail, or guide you to the answer you need on the company's website.

Hiawatha Bray wrote about the company back in June. Zappix has already pre-loaded customer service guides into its app for more than Boston-based and national entities, from American Airlines to Cambridge City Hall to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The first customer to roll out the technology is Village Fertility Pharmacy in Waltham. Zappix doesn't create individual customer service apps for each of its clients; there's one main app, divided into categories like Sports, Attractions, Shipping, and Pharmacies.

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But the company still faces the challenge of the App Store Black Hole At Village Fertility Pharmacy, president Stuart Levine said he'd been exploring various mobile apps for several years. But the bigger your business gets, the more you rely on them. Zappix has about a dozen employees, in both Burlington and Israel. That's the vision at Matter. In the photo, Tao is on the left, Reid on the right, along with a few of their 3D printers. I stopped by to visit the company a few weeks ago. They'd just printed out the dragon model you see here, adding Lego nodules to the bottom of it so that it would click into standard Lego pieces.

So far, Reid says, "CAD has been for professional engineers who are designing products that will be mass manufactured. They also want to make it easy to embed 3D models into websites, the same way today people can integrate YouTube videos or slide shows. Today, Tao says, 3D object design is a "for nerds, by nerds" kind of space.

The company is "interested in how normal people would want to make stuff. They don't perceive the objects in their lives as being flexible, since most are mass-produced in the millions. But we think people want to apply their creativity to objects. The perfect personalized gift Reid and Tao say they're still hashing out Matter's business model. Update : I wrote a bit more about Matter as part of this Globe column on whether 3D printing will go mainstream. The answer, for most companies, is either chalking up sales or not.

And that's where a Burlington startup, Qstream , wants to help. They can do it while waiting for their lattes at Starbucks. Reps' scores are then compiled into a report for the sales supervisor. In pharmaceutical sales, for instance, "you can see which reps might be struggling to explain the efficacy of a drug with a particular kind of patient. You might need to spend more time with him, or provide some extra training. The company has about a dozen employees, mainly in Burlington. But Qstream also has an engineering and international sales outpost in Dublin.

Qstream's pitch is that it can help ensure that they say the right thing. Yonder is a social app that guides you to outdoors-y activities near you, or let you visit far-off destinations vicariously. Thanks to your phone's GPS technology, you can find parks and reservations close to you, like Chestnut Hill Reservation right. Yonder's filters let you hunt for ideal places for different kinds of activities, like kayaking, hiking, or birding.

And of course, you can use the app to take pictures or videos of your adventures and share them with other Yonder users, adding comments about hidden grottos or your favorite picnicking spot. It might be a special deal being offered by a retailer or restaurant, or Instagram pictures from a street fair, or events being posted on Eventbrite or Zvents. You can also draw your own boundary around where you live, work, or rent a ski house to keep tabs on what's happening nearby. It's fun to see Instagram photos posted by the weirdos who live around you, and also to keep tabs on who's playing at local music venues.

CO Everywhere reminds me a bit of Spindle, an app developed in Boston, acquired by Twitter , and then shut down. Twitter just wanted the engineering team, apparently. Racut's tagline is "social networking without the commitment. But that requires that a group of people in the same place are actually using the Racut app at the same time, which will be the biggest obstacle for the startup. I could imagine it taking off on college campuses, though, or if a bar or conference venue promoted it to patrons as a way to schmooze digitally. So last month, when GSN Digital held a hackathon for its employees, VP of engineering Caesar Naples decided it was finally time to do something about it.

The three-day employee hackathon took place in late July; it's a once-a-quarter event at GSN Digital when pretty much everything is put on pause unless it is related to keeping existing games running.

Leaders can learn a lot from the late Apple CEO, but not all of it should be emulated.

Naples explains, "It's a chance to tap people's creativity, and let them work on things that they might not be able to work on in their regular jobs. The overall guidelines are that you can do anything that ties back into the business, even vaguely. Naples volunteered the driveway of his nearby home as an assembly area for what they dubbed the Kegatron. They bought plywood for the cabinet, a mini-fridge, game controllers, and keg hardware from Amazon.

Despite afternoon temps in the 90s, the team kept on building. And yes, it included a couple of those ops guys, Erik Roberts and Dan Hopkins, who had always tried to shoehorn the entertainment device into the budget. Not every hackathon project is as, um, recreationally-oriented as the Kegatron.

Others have involved designing new PowerPoint templates for the company; exploring the ability to make in-game purchases with a single click; working on prototypes for new games; and deploying animated characters as guides to GSN Digital's careers page. But the Kegatron has turned into a nice example within GSN Digital of applying a small team's creativity to create something cool, instead of just buying it. It occupies an office of its own, and often attracts a crowd. I had to ask about the first beer the Kegatron was outfitted with.

His new project: setting up a tech incubator code-named Blade. English didn't want to go into detail about the new incubator, but he and several partners have already been camped out in Downtown Crossing office of One Mighty Roar , a product development firm. Construction of the Summer Street space got underway earlier in August.

English says he's planning an "outrageous" workspace that will transform into a club at 6 PM, with regular events that "celebrate creative people" like dancers, sculptors, and clothing designers. At the incubator, he plans to serve as a matchmaker between CEO and CTO pairs, launching about three new companies a year.

English has also been collaborating with programmer Bob Rainis on an iPhone app called RoadWars, which should be out soon. Rainis' LinkedIn profile describes it as an "iPhone app for rating driving ability," and says he has been working on it since October Rainis earlier worked with Jeffrey Beir on an excellent iPhone app called RoadAhead , which provides drivers with detailed information about what they can find at each highway exit.

English and Hafner co-founded Kayak back in in the Cambridge offices of General Catalyst , a venture capital firm. While its headquarters were later set up in Norwalk, Connecticut, English built a large technology team in Concord, Mass. I wrote about English's approach to recruiting employees in In , I wrote one of the first articles about the company. James Keller , right, will run Vee24 from Boston, following the new funding round supplied by his old boss, Scott Savitz, now a venture capitalist at Data Point Capital.

Sean Marsh of Point Judith Capital also joined in on the funding round, which represents Vee24's first hit of outside capital. Keller says he's currently hunting for office space in downtown Boston and in Kendall Square. It enables websites to offer live video chats with representatives, who can also guide prospective customers to particular pages on the site, play videos, and enter data into forms. Sessions can also be handed off from one representative to another, for instance if the second rep has more relevant experience with a certain product line.

And when a customer enters a credit card, the number is hidden from the representative. Keller left Boston-based Shoebuy in mid-May. The company hasn't yet done much marketing to U. A handful of Vee24's Manchester employees will move to Boston, but Keller says he also plans to do a bit of local hiring, building a team of 15 to 20 by the end of European sales and service will still be handled out of Manchester, along with product development and engineering, Keller says. They're planning to move from shared space at Workbar , where entrepreneurs and startups rent individual desks or offices on a monthly basis, to their own digs on the eighth floor of One Broadway, the Kendall Square tower that also houses the Cambridge Innovation Center.

The space isn't huge: about 3, square feet, according to several real estate sources with knowledge of the deal. That will fit roughly 15 people. Facebook's local employees likely won't move into the new space until later in Ryan Mack's LinkedIn profile describes him as the site lead for Facebook's local team, which appears to be only a half-dozen or so people at this point. But Mack's profile also says that he is "focusing on hiring infrastructure experts to grow our Boston-based team. We are looking for experienced engineers who would enjoy the challenge of building massive globally distributed systems while simultaneously defining the culture and trajectory of our rapidly growing team.

Facebook spokesperson Slater Tow wouldn't comment on the company's local hiring plans, or its new office: "As a rule, we decline to comment on these types of stories," Tow wrote via e-mail. Brokers at Colliers International , which handles the leasing at One Broadway, haven't yet responded to a phone call and e-mail. Facebook's local engineers have worked out of both the Boston and Cambridge locations of Workbar for the last year or so; the Cambridge location, on Prospect Street in Central Square, just opened in May. Google, Amazon, and Apple have all rented space in the building at one time or another.

In its startup days, Facebook had an advertising sales office in Boston, which it closed in These are the seven companies chosen for Bolt's first class; the descriptions were provided by Einstein. From Pasadena, CA. From San Francisco, CA. Loci is also one of the finalists in this year's MassChallenge competition.

Bolt's concluding "prototype day," at which all seven companies will present to investors, is scheduled for January 23rd. Bolt plans to host the relatively-new Boston Hardware Meetup every six weeks, which features presentations from a handful of startups; there's one this evening. That's the vision of a Boston startup, ZappRx , that is launching its first real-world test in Manhattan this week. Patients who use the app will be able to enter their insurance information into their phone, along with a credit card number for co-pays, and then show the phone's screen "like a mobile boarding pass" when they arrive at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, says founder and CEO Zoe Barry.

Patients can also use ZappRx to keep tabs on their symptoms, or order refills. On the back end, docs use an iPad or PC to access a web-based prescription interface. The current trial isn't intended to gather data about how the system impacts patient or doctor behavior, Barry says: "We're just trying to make it convenient, and make the users happy. ZappRx has six employees, including chief technology officer Matthew Graziano , who joined earlier this year from RunKeeper. Barry says she raised a seed round earlier this year, from a group of investors including Hakan Satiroglu, founder of Exponential Techspace in Boston and Michael Silverman, co-founder of The Fancy , a customer-curated online shop.

She's talking with primary care physicians and independent pharmacies in Boston about conducting a test locally. I called Figulo founder Andy Jeffery to ask him about the bowl. We print it on our hot-rodded Z Corp. We have six of those here. We made some modifications to them so that they can print ceramic. An inkjet printer head in the 3D printer spits out a special powder formulated by Figulo, which includes a solid glue. Then, it adds a water-based fluid that "dissolves the glue and binds the joints of the ceramic particles together," Jeffery explains.

The printer head builds the object one layer at a time, resulting in a green ceramic piece. It gets fired in one of our kilns, then we glaze it and fire it again, so it's food safe. We don't claim it's microwaveable or dishwasher safe. Jeffery says the bowl he sent takes about 2 hours for his printer to produce, but then "a day for firing and another day for glazing. If we get an order on Monday, we can ship it on Friday.

Jeffery says that Figulo, founded in , is the only vendor making finished ceramic pieces on a 3D printer: "We've got the field to ourselves for the moment. He expects that Figulo-produced items may soon start showing up in more local design stores. Layrs lets you separate the foreground from the background of your pictures with the swipe of a finger, and then adjust each area separately. You might want to increase the contrast of the ocean without affecting the kids playing on the beach, for instance, or add a blur effect to a sailboat in the foreground without changing anything about the sky.

Once you're done, you can save the new photo to your phone's camera roll, e-mail it, or share it on social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Posting to Facebook didn't work when I tried it this week, and the app does force you to crop your original picture into a square format so you can work with it on the iPhone's screen. The company that makes Layrs, Artware Studio , is self-funded, and has been working on the app since last year.

Future generations of the app with more advanced features may cost money. Ozguc and Kintzlinger worked together previously at Octalica, a semiconductor company in Newton and Israel that was acquired in by Broadcom. Below is a picture I shot last weekend, and then the same photo edited with Layrs. I left the sky alone, but brightened up the foreground.

Alignable CEO Eric Groves , who spent a decade at Constant Contact, says that local businesses have tried a lot of Internet marketing strategies over the last decade, without a lot of success. Can you say Groupon? They prefer to buy locally. Alignable's solution involves a web-based platform that lets businesses market to each others' customers. If one company in Hyannis sells pools, and another sells patio furniture, why not get together to offer a package deal? Alignable makes that easy, and enables them to promote it to their respective e-mail lists and social media followings.

Groves says, "It's about connecting local merchants with each other, and then helping them acquire new customers. Groves says that Alignable is now building out analytics to collect data about which programs are most effective at making the cash register ring, and presenting that to Alignable's users. The company has eight employees operating out of Matrix Partners' office in Waltham; two of them, in addition to Groves, are alumni of Constant Contact.

He began his entrepreneurial career as a co-founder of Invisalign, now publicly-traded. The number one criteria is the strength and intelligence and the fire in the belly of the team you're investing in. I certainly think we have a very strong and healthy mobile ecosystem. His firm is collaborating with Kleiner Perkins and Andreessen Horowitz to scout for promising Glass-related startups. Despite any past gripes, the Podcaster Meetup is still going strong and the last meeting was one of the largest yet. Newsweek asked Scott about his revenue transition: LEVY: A year ago you changed from free service to one that charged your Meetup groups a fee.

What was the impact? That was pretty damn painful. Most of last year we sort of crawled up, but this year we've just exploded. Now there are more people than ever RSVP'ing for meetups. Also, after each meeting we religiously poll members and ask them to rate it on a scale from 1 to 5. Before there was a fee, the average rating was 3. After the fee, the average rating is a 4. The difficulty of creating fee based services seems to be a common issue with many of the entrepreneurs we interview.

One of the common themes we notice in the people we interview is that they don't lead very well-balanced lives. So we were excited to read Inc Magazine's proposed solution : hiring a life coach. It's an interesting topic. We're going to try to find a well-balanced entrepreneur if such a thing exists to interview, and hear how it's done.

I never thought of Amazon as a friend of entrepreneurs. Several years ago I remember a friend of mine who self-published an entrepreneurial handbook for teens telling me that authors had to give up too many rights to list a book themselves on Amazon. They do have the Associates program that lets website operators make money by linking to Amazon products which I use, more for tracking than for income , but that's old news and doesn't generate serious money for many anymore. Amazon enables entrepreneurs to sell over Amazon, but eBay clearly dominates that enterprise.

Slashdot even posted an entry titled Google's Love For Small Businesses that points to a Cringely article, but both don't even mention Amazon. If you look closely at Amazon's portfolio of services, you'll see they now produce some extremely disruptive tools that they've opened up to any entrepreneur with the vision to use them.

Here's your Amazon arsenal:. Amazon Mechanical Turk : Their slogan is "Artificial Artificial Intelligence" because they systematize basic tasks preformed by humans to the point that they work like automated tasks. It's basically a marketplace for people willing to do simple tasks to find people who need those tasks done. Amazon doesn't expect end users to use this system in a big way, but rather relies on entrepreneurs to build specialized front ends.

This allowed them to drive costs down by using a worldwide network of typists. The market for local typists, who base their cost on the local cost of living and who might be unavailable at the time someone needs them, might shrink drastically. What other markets could entrepreneurs go after with Mechanical Turk? Amazon S3 - Simple Storage Service : Amazon's solution for people to easily store and serve files on the web.

But the one "s" word they left out from the title is scale. Typically when you build a web service you suffer higher rates at the beginning for storage and bandwidth because you're not operating on a large scale. Worse, your systems will in all likelihood crash as you scale up. And all the while, you must negotiate with your hosting or content delivery vendors to get your rates down.

S3 throws a highly scalable system out at developers and give them prices normally only achievable at a large scale to start. This could be huge for the college dorm room startup crowd who would otherwise be particularly ill equip to negotiate deals like this on their own, or for any bootstrapping entrepreneur. Venture Voice alum Scott Johnson said in his blog that he's using it for Ookles. He calls it "a gift from heaven. Alexa Top Sites : Alexa is Amazon's search engine that is best known among obsessive statistically-oriented entrepreneurs and VCs for it's traffic rankings.

They've opened it up to anyone to use their data in creative ways. Alexaholic uses it to make it easy to compare the performance of up to five different sites. Alexadex has created a fantasy market that allows you to buy "stock" in any website. On a more serious note, Venture Voice alum Philip Kaplan uses Alexa stats to inform AdBrite advertisers about the sites they can advertise in.

What we may still learn from Silicon Valley

BusinessWeek ran an article asking if we're in a bubble, again. It starts by citing Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake's post It's a bad time to start a company , which we weren't alone in writing about. The articles quotes some Venture Voice alumni who weigh in. Venture capitalist David Hornik , who'll be speaking at the Venture Voice Startup Workshop said in the section titled "See No Evil" David must have loved that : "There are lots of people saying: 'Gee, we're busy trying to build real businesses here, and people are wasting our time talking about whether this is a bubble,".

Joe Kraus , the founder of JotSpot and Excite, was quoted too on a more pessimistic note: But the rising prices of Net startups are fueling a surge of me-too companies in hot areas such as social networking. With little investment required, these products are easily imitated. I really enjoy hearing from listeners. The best comments are the ones that challenge us and make us think about how we run the show. Andrew Cheung recently sent one in using our nifty contact form and selected the "You may quote me on this" option, so I'm going to share his comment and respond to it here.

I very much enjoyed listening to the stories of David and Steve who you recently had on. My main question to you is that when you interviewed these guys and possibly other people too , is there are a particular reason why you tend to have a focus on the negative aspect of things? It just seems to me that your angle of questioning at times seems to be on the negative side of things. I guess its particularly pronounced when listening to these very inspiring guys and the negative line of questioning gets really emphasized.

Don't get me wrong, I love to hear what problems these guys had to overcome to get where they are now. But it just seems at times you like to keep digging at the problems rather than focusing on how they found the solutions to their problems. I thought David had so much passion and enthusiasm, it would've been great to hear more about why he is so fired up.

I guess I'm not sure exactly what your philosophy behind your interview technique is, but I just thought I'd give you my 2c worth. I think you have extremely high quality people on the show and hopefully we can all get inspired by them listening to your show. It really means a lot that you're taking the time to give me such specific feedback. I've learned a lot from my listeners.

I'm very deliberate in my style and it's not because I'm trying to be negative. I've been an entrepreneur ever since I was 14, love entrepreneurship, and really enjoy talking to the people who I'm lucky enough to have on my show. However, I started the show because I felt a lot of coverage out there on entrepreneurship is fluff and glosses over the hard issues that entrepreneurs deal with on a daily basis. Because of that, aspiring entrepreneurs get a skewed view of what they're about to get into and are often unprepared. Worse, when entrepreneurs only talk about the positives which might well be a good practice for sales , other entrepreneurs feel as though no one shares their problems.

Besides, the questions the entrepreneurs get from me are nothing compared to the skeptical questions they get on a daily basis from prospective customers, VCs and the traditional media. Great entrepreneurs don't get discouraged easily. For some reason we just can't help covering the blog search wars. Our first run in with the fledgeling industry was our interview with Scott Rafer , the then-CEO of the then-rocking Feedster.

A couple months after that he left the company along with one of its co-founders, Scott Johnson. We interviewed Scott J. Competition never seems to deter entrepreneurs from hot markets. TechCrunch just reported that a much buzzed about contender has entered the ring of blog search called Sphere. And GigaOM reports they've got a war chest of venture capital money to boot. In an endearing startup PR blunder, Sphere sent us an e-mail after the other coverage instructing us "We'd appreciate you helping us get the word out if you like what we've built.

Please feel free to blog about the site any time after am Tuesday May 2nd. And don't forget to the specify timezone -- the whole world isn't on the West Coast. Actually I shouldn't be complaining about that because if all media outlets are governed by their local timezones for embargoes, then us East Coasters have the upper-hand in breaking news. But that's all besides the point. This should be an interesting market to watch play out.

It's exciting to see blog search is still the battle ground of entrepreneurs and hasn't been dominated by the big search companies as many had predicted. Fortune Magazine's Patricia B. Gray wrote an article, Business Class , asking the age old question: Can you teach entrepreneurship? I've been asked that question ad nauseum since I've led an entrepreneur workshop aimed at high school and college students for the past five summers. Boldness and creativity are, of course, a difficult if not impossible things to teach because they're a function of character. And if you believe Aristotle, it's too late to change one's character by the time you're in college.

The teaching entrepreneurship question can quickly boil down to semantics. In our workshop we never had the audacity to refer to ourselves as teachers well, maybe to the press, but never to the participants. What we did believe is that you can't teach entrepreneurship in the same way that you can teach a skill, such as accounting. A good teacher should be able to make any student who's willing to learn capable of practicing at least basic accounting. You can teach someone to be an accountant. You can certainly learn about entrepreneurship just listen to Venture Voice. But teaching someone about entrepreneurship doesn't make them an entrepreneur -- because of the prerequisite of character.

Saying you teach people to be entrepreneurs is more akin to claiming to teach people to be philosophers. As one of my old philosophy professors used to say: You can teach philosophy, learn a lot about philosophy, even become a philosophy professor -- but that doesn't make you a philosopher in fact he claimed that there was a low correlation between philosophy professors and philosophers. Being a philosopher requires intellectual independence and curiosity that doesn't come from being taught.

So what are we doing providing information about entrepreneurship? We're not interested in teaching it so people can be knowledgeable about entrepreneurship. Knowledge isn't good enough. No entrepreneur ever made a buck just because she knew the history of entrepreneurship. While we can't make ordinary people into entrepreneurs, we can make entrepreneurs wiser by sharing war stories and helping each other work through challenges. Forget dodgeball, entrepreneurship is now the thing to do in camp according to BusinessWeek. Within a two-week period recently, I had the opportunity to speak at class day to a group of 4th graders and to two MBA classes at one of the top three U.

I asked the 4th graders if they knew what an entrepreneur was. None of them did. They all liked the concept when I told them, but I truly won them over when I showed off my iPod. Unfortunately I was then upstaged by the two prison guards who presented after me who had their guns and nightsticks as props. I asked the MBAs to raise their hands if they were interested in one day starting their own business. Then I asked how many of them were turning down job offers they were all graduating in May to go start a business for themselves immediately.

Only one or two hands stayed up. The 4th graders may well have a better shot at entrepreneurship than the MBAs within the next five years of their life. By the time someone has an MBA, their opportunity cost has skyrocketed. And risk tolerance is only lowering for the MBA who may be paying off student loads, getting married and having children.

Kids, on the other hand, have nothing to lose except their lunch money. It cites a woman who launched a business venture about ten years ago that didn't succeed. While Jenny Baker's experience sounds quite painful overall, that feeling of loneliness seems to stick out in her mind. Rightfully so. Even as more young people start businesses, they'll still be overshadowed by the army of recent grads going into corporate training programs and law school. I wonder if it would be just slightly different today, now that so many young entrepreneurs from all over the world are blogging, social networking on-line and appearing on podcasts.

Perhaps we're forming a virtual Club of Terror. Steve remembered his experience reading an editorial in by Wilson Harrell, the then publisher of Inc. Harrell wrote in a later column that entrepreneurial terror was not a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but rather the perpetual lot of the entrepreneur.

Harrell told of his first business representing Kraft Foods in selling their products to military bases in Europe and the Middle East. One day, the president of Kraft told Harrell that the company was thinking of taking over the sales operation in Germany with its own people. Harrell boldly replied that if he was losing Germany, he would give up the rest of his brokerage business. He said it took Kraft a month to make up its mind.

Finally, Kraft backed down and awarded him a new contract. It is food for our spirit-the sustenance that keeps us going from one encounter to the next. This is the part of starting a business we all like to gloss over. But it brings up a powerful point: Overcoming terrifying odds is part of what makes someone an entrepreneur.

People who work for others love to describe themselves as entrepreneurial simply because they have initiative and come up with ideas frequently. This usage of entrepreneurial seems to cheapen the term. Steve himself is no stranger to terror. Fabrice Grinda had to empty his bank account and miss payroll to keep Zingy afloat. John Bogle said "It was awful, I cried. Almost every entrepreneur goes through tough times. It's part of building a business. So what's the good news? By examining the bad times in addition to the good, we're at least prepared for the inevitable turmoil that will visit any entrepreneur.

There's a certain comfort in knowing terror isn't just the feeling you have but that it's part of the job description. It was a great panel because each panelist had very different resumes. It was also an unusual venture panel because 2 of the 5 panelists were women. SiliconBeat just ran a post titled Old Boy Network?

Forget it. There were a couple disagreements, but I made the panelists duke it out which made for a fun time -- and the panel ultimately got to some interesting conclusions: The management team is of utmost importance, but even a great management team can't beat a bad market. Don't start a business with your spouse. Always listen to your wife before making an important decision such as a key hire was suggested by a man but enthusiasticly supported by the women on the panel too. One entrepreneur in the audience made the interesting suggestion to use a "cliff" when hiring people.

That means they only get to keep the equity they're awarded if they stay involved with the company for a certain amount of time. There was a bit of debate between the panel and the audience when I asked how long a startup should wait before firing a new hire who doesn't seem to be preforming. One of the panelist said to give a new hire at least a month to settle in and 2 to 3 months to show performance. And audience member retorted that he fired someone after just a couple of weeks of bad performance, and regrets not making the fire sooner. We can now break the news of his most ambitious venture yet: An ad-supported auction site to compete with Craigslist and eBay.

It's called OLX , and it's already live. We grabbed him for a text interview to give us an update. I went on a whirlwind tour of the world that mixed pleasure and business with a guiding theme: meeting as many entrepreneurs as possible around the world. I started off with a week in Paris where I met both all my old Internet buddies from the bubble days and new up-and-coming startups. I then went skiing for a few days in St. Moritz Switzerland before going on a 10 day trip in Morocco. I visited Casablanca, Marrakech, Essaouira, Agadir.

Stayed in local riads, visited the medinas and hiked the dunes of Chegaga in the Sahara. I then spent 10 days in Nice with my family before heading for Latin America. There I spent 24 days between Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. The leisure part of the trip saw me ice climbing on glaciers, horseback riding, biking, boating, rafting and hiking throughout Patagonia. I met numerous entrepreneurs and the former minister of the economy. After that I was off to Belize for snorkeling, biking, hiking and visiting Mayan ruins — while considering buying land there.

I then spent two weeks in San Francisco meeting as many Web 2. Why are you risking your reputation and working like crazy on a new venture when you could just become a venture capitalist or philanthropist or pursue some other career that offers a more glamorous life style with less risk? After selling Zingy I considered a number of options — becoming CEO of an established Internet startup, becoming a partner in a venture capital fund or creating my own fund. All those are attractive in their own right and I may yet do one of those later on in life.

However, there is something magical about creating something out of nothing, about starting a company and growing it, that I hungered to experience again. I felt the calling and just had to do it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. As for working hard — well it does not really feel like work when you love what you are doing : I will eventually become a philanthropist, but probably not for another 20 years, I have a lot to build first! OLX offers jobs, housing, goods and services, personals, events and community and much more!

We aim at being only facilitators in the larger trend of the Internet helping people help each other using this marvelous network in a totally free experience. We have all heard growing complaints that eBay has been abusing its monopoly position to gouge its sellers for years. To a lesser extent, the same situation applies in the United States where Craigslist has grown to an unimaginable scale with its free and local features.

I, like many people, like Craigslist and have used it many times to hire people, find a dog keeper, buy a foosball table, etc. One could claim that in spite of all the value Craigslist has created, today, Craigslist is not fully delivering on its core mission of providing a great public service to the community. With these thoughts in mind, we decided to create OLX: a free service with great and unmatched functionality.

What Venture Capitalists Are Really Thinking

According to your website, OLX was just founded in March. How'd you get it built so quickly? How much has it cost you? The reason we were able to get the site off the ground so quickly is that we hired key former technology people from Deremate , the Latin American auction site I co-founded in which was sold to MercadoLibre partly owned by eBay in November The technology team has been living and breathing auctions and classified for the past 7 years and really knew how to rapidly build a next generation site. I also have extensive experience in consumer to consumer trading platforms, having created Aucland which was one of the largest auction sites in Europe.

Your business obviously needs a critical mass of buyers and sellers to be useful. How do you plan on getting enough users and how many is enough? What do you think it will cost you? Getting enough buyers and sellers is indeed the key. We would like to believe that a combination of a much better product with smart viral marketing, keyword advertising, affiliate management, word of mouth, partnerships with newspapers and portals, effective PR, mobile distribution and going after cities and countries that are not competitive should allow us to get traction in enough locations to provide a great public service to our community of users.

You've invested in some other companies too. How many hours per week are you spending on OLX? I am chairman of Allmydata , an amazing online backup company. I am an investor in Phanfare www. Of those Allmydata is my largest time commitment. There are still bugs in your site and you've got a ways to go from completion.

Why is it public and not a closed beta? Historically I was secretive about my projects and would not launch or talk about the projects until they were fully finalized. However, I have been impressed by the power of communities to guide product strategy in many recent Web companies.

As a result, I have decided to change that philosophy to allow the very users of the site to help shape the product and the vision. I am also a big believer in occupying the market early and placing a stake in the ground. Besides the core of the site is complete and the site actually works pretty well. There are only a few small bugs left that are being eliminated as we speak. Web 2. For me, at its essence, it means empowering users to do what they want with the Web in a simple and open way. Given that OLX is all about user generated content, simplicity and openness, it is the very definition of a Web 2.

We will allow users to publicly comment on listings to further the sense of community and will make the entire site available in RSS. We also use Ajax throughout the site. We use it to provide a WYSIWYG editor on the posting page, to allow users to see in real time if their username is already taken on the registration page and to zoom in and out of our region search engine. We have not yet decided on our launch event, but I would not count on a fancy launch party. Startups must be frugal!

I made the first post in the OLX jobs section. How many responses do you think my post will get before it expires in 30 days? The site is just getting off the ground and we are just now starting to promote it so you are not going to get a lot of responses yet, but you will have been one of the first to partake in this wonderful new adventure :.

What's the most significant difference between how you're building this company and how you've built your prior companies? This is probably the riskiest endeavor I have ever done. I am attacking entrenched incumbents in a large market and am facing a slew of new competitors Microsoft Expo, Google Base, etc. Should I succeed the payoffs will be huge, but the probability of success is much lower than in any of my previous companies where I was an early mover in a much less competitive space. In light of this environment, execution is going to be key and for the first time I decided to have a co-CEO and a remote technology team.

The technology team is in Buenos Aires —not because they are less expensive — but because there is a large pool of available developers, many of which with a key expertise in auctions and classifieds. As for having a co-CEO — given the scale and ambition of the project and the fact that a large part of the team is in Buenos Aires — I felt I needed a local person on the ground I could trust to make all the right decisions. With all of your past ventures, you had bet all of your money on their success.

If they failed, you would have been practically penniless. Now that's not the case. Do you think you're still hungry enough to win? I am not sure I am going to be able to convince you, but I am as hungry as I have ever been! Physically I feel this transcending wave of energy and excitement that I can barely contain! Also, you also need to realize that I never considered I had anything to loose in the past either.

Even if I had been left penniless by my previous ventures, I could always have gotten a job at McKinsey or in banking, private equity or venture capital. We just posted our 30th show! Aaron mentioned Scott to me and I had to ask which one. If they are, it's not because of good luck. Scott Johnson, who we just posted an interview with, reports that Venture Voice has been trumped by tornado concerns around his home in Indiana. Although we might not be hitting the mark on diversity of first names, if our guests are dealing with tornadoes it at least shows we've got some geographical diversity.

Venture capitalist Josh Kopelman gives some excellent examples from his career of disruptive entrepreneurial businesses in his blog. Jingle simply makes it free and ad-supported. If successful, Americans will spend a lot less on calls but Jingle will prosper at the exponential expense of the phone companies. It describes what we recently referred to as disruptive businesses -- a company that can grow while shrinking margins in its industry. In other words, a disruptive business can expand by making one dollar for every several dollars it takes from its antiquated competitors.

Except The Times attributes the motive behind this business model to be altruistic, while we naively thought it was just a great entrepreneurial opportunity. Their primary example is Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist. It's hard not to agree with The Times on this one. Craig probably has not made as much money as he could have with Craigslist without hurting user experience to the point that it would decrease traffic. If there was a one line AdWords-style ad in there, would you stop using it? This seems to be a good example. It also cites FireFox as an example.

FireFox is definitely not profit-driven as it's managed by the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation. This is a pretty good example, but it only gets a couple lines in the article. It's also not strictly a disruptive business. Microsoft gives out Internet Explorer for free in part to drive traffic by default to its media properties. FireFox gets money from Google to drive users to its search site. Seems to be more of just an alternative. However, Craigslist and FireFox are the only examples The Times cites that stands up to scrutiny for their altruism behind disruption theory.

Their other two examples which command most of the article are: Chowhound. It's extremely difficult for small sites to rate their own advertisers, and if they happen to give a legitimate positive rating to a restaurant that's also an advertiser it would have the appearance of a conflict of interest which is often enough to turn off users. At the end of the day, the profit is often just the money that makes it into the entrepreneur's pocket. And how long will CNET continue to "disdain profits"? That question aside, venture capitalist Fred Wilson points out that even if the founder disdains profits, his VC investors probably do not.

I'm not making the Gekkoian greed is good argument. I'm not even saying that these entrepreneurs are enamoured with Ayn Rand. I'm just saying that disruption and integrity often make for good business in the long run, and to ascribe any other motive is the challenge of the author. Now let's try to figure out the motives of some of the disruptive entrepreneurs we've had on the show: TerraCycle's founder Tom Szaky , who makes an organic and cheaper to produce alternative to Miracle-Gro, quickly admits to be operating his business primarily to make profits and because he thinks "we're a pretty damn sexy manufacturing company.

Great byproduct! Great sales tool! But not his motive. We'll have more on that soon. Based on the interview, while Fabrice certainly believes that capitalism is ultimately good for people, he also has an eye for profits. John Bogle , the founder of The Vanguard Group, has altruistic motives behind his invention of the index fund. Any skeptics would be hard pressed to find evidence otherwise.

However, even if he didn't have altruistic motives, John would have been forced to run his index funds at a low expense ratio for fear of a competitor running an index fund at an even lower expense ratio. And he hardly represents a recent trend having started his business years ago. Ascribing motives to the actions of others or even to your own actions is very tricky business. I hesitated to even analyze the motives of my guests before writing this post, but I figured if The Times can do it then so can we.

However, if disruption does not require altruism, then this dubious analysis might not be necessary. I'm starting to know how he feels. Taking all the fun out of this speculation, paidConent. Discussion about this dubious acquisition in-the-making goes on despite Facebook founder and CEO's proclamation that "I'm in this to build something cool, not to get bought.

The Google Romance Question: It's been a while since anyone's talked about "the Google question" the question venture capitalists ask entrepreneurs, "what happens if Google does what you're doing? Now, all of the companies Computing the Mysteries of Attraction such as Match. After all, as Google points out, "love is just another search problem. Don't write off all of these stories though. Imagine if we'd written them off with just a snarky post. While the popular mentality has shifted over the past couple of decades to recognise if not admire entrepreneurs, economic theory has largely ignored them according to The Economist's article Searching for the invisible man.

And who would know better than The Economist? Many people bicker over the definition of entrepreneurship, but the literal translation The Economist cites is quite satisfying. Translated literally, entrepreneur means one who undertakes—one of life's doers. To start a firm you need gumption, and to succeed you need an eye for a gap in the market.

But it does not always demand much originality or power of invention. The fresh-born firm may be a mere clone of another one in a neighbouring town. Replace the word town with country, and that last sentence is pretty close to Fabrice Grinda 's international idea arbitrage concept. The article focuses on the distinction in innovation between incremental improvements making a slightly better version of what's already out there and "discontinuous breakthroughs" they cite the incandescent lamp, alternating electric current or the jet engine as examples.

The article gives two reasons: The first explanation seems paradoxical. Breakthroughs are, by definition, more difficult than routine innovations. Surely, they should be beyond the meagre means of the independent entrepreneur? But as Mr Baumol points out, building the Kitty Hawk was much cheaper, and less complicated, than upgrading the Boeing to the Genuinely new ideas are often breathtakingly simple. They grow more elaborate as improvements and modifications are laid on top of them. If you are the first to discover a tree, you get to pick the lowest-hanging fruit. The second explanation is more intuitive.

The Bay Area

Revolution is a risky endeavour. Of 1, Canadian inventions surveyed in by Thomas Astebro, of the University of Toronto, only 75 reached the market. A rational manager will balk at such odds. But the entrepreneur answers to his own dreams and demons. The first reason, that simplicity defies established companies, would surely be appreciated by Jason Fried.

The second reason, that entrepreneurs are irrational, seems like a fine explanation too as evidenced by the many guests we've had on this show who've shunned high-paying and stable career options in favor of startups of course, their irrationality is up for debate after they succeed.

I think the article missed one reason: That many breakthrough innovations are disruptive. A disruptive business can grow by making one dollar for every five it takes from its antiquated competitors. Craigslist only makes tiny amount of money if any on users who would otherwise spend a lot of money with a newspaper. The same relationship exists between TerraCycle and Miracle-Gro, and John Bogle 's index funds and traditional high-expense ratio mutual funds. Disruptive innovations are on the side of the angels, better for consumers and will ultimately defeat their fat targets.

Why would a profitable corporation want to make a disruptive breakthrough? And if they did make such a discovery, fear would likely keep them from bringing it to market. In fact, Xerox PARC made many breakthroughs such as the mouse and advanced graphical user interfaces. It didn't have an incentive to cannibalize its dominant paper copy business, so it didn't put much effort into spreading those innovations. Steve Jobs had nothing to lose from building products on those innovations except for the long-term health of one of his investors, Xerox, but that didn't matter to him , and ultimately computers progressed to the point that fewer paper copies were needed.

Similarly, I imagine that newspapers would not have developed Craigslist had they thought of it first even if such a site was inevitable , Miracle-Gro would not brew TerraCycle had they thought of it and high-expense ratio mutual funds would not have organized the first index fund. Entrepreneurs don't only have an edge because they're crazier and can come up with simpler solutions. Established players are made great because of large profit margins and don't want even their own disruptive breakthroughs to eliminate those margins. That's the entrepreneur's job. While many of the entrepreneurs we've interviewed on this show have already made it big, we go to conferences like DEMO to scout out the up-and-comers.

At the last DEMO conference, we followed Sharpcast through the process of unveiling their technology to the world. Now, not even two months later, Sharpcast has been featured as part of a Newsweek cover story on the "Next Web". That was fast. Sir Ken Robinson This is my favorite. Great delivery, pace, and a natural, authentic use of humor. Sir Ken Robinsons seems to be saying that it is not so much that we need to learn how to be creative, rather we need to remember how to be creative. Some good lines from Robinson's talk: "Professors look at their bodies as a form of transport for their heads.

Hans Rosling Hans Rosling , an expert in public health from Sweden, does an amazing job in this presentation bringing the data to life. If you want to know how he did all those graphics, go to gapminder. It's all there. Hans is saying the problem is not the data, the data is there. But it's not accessible to most people for three reasons: 1 For researchers and journalists, teachers, etc.

His solution is to make the data free, let it evoke and provoke an "aha" experience," or a "wow! I loved the way he got involved with the data, virtually throwing himself into the screen. He got his point across, no question about it. More download options here. David Pogue David is a smart, funny guy. A few years ago I called David up and asked if he would keynote one of the Apple user group events New York. It was a non-paying gig. He very graciously agreed; his performance was a smash as usual.

A very charismatic, engaging character who is popular with the "groupies" user groups. Much of what David is talking about are the very same things we've been talking about here. As David says: simplicity is hard, but it's worth it. Make it great. Keep it simple. Tony Robbins "If we can get the right emotion, we can get our self to do anything.

I believe he's right about that, though this is hardly a revelation for most people.

Steve Jobs

Emotion is clearly also part of his presentation style, and that is a good thing. His slides, however, were surprisingly something from circa , ugly, wordy PowerPoint. Very odd. He was speaking at such a clip, for the audience in the room, perhaps the slides were better than nothing. But honestly, he was the visual for this short talk. Not sure the slides helped much. I've never been totally sold on Tony Robbins' content by any means, but if his plethora of books, CDs, etc.

Tony Robbins does not like to be referred to as a "motivational speaker" but he does indeed have a powerful motivational affect on people, on a crowd. The man can certainly work a room. Is it me, or did you feel Tony was pushing just a bit too much? And I am personally not offended by swearing and I am all for informality, but referring to Al Gore as "that Son-of-a-bitch"? Maybe I've been in Japan too long Al Gore Mr. Gore was engaging as usual in his role as "the new Al Gore.

Funny, self-deprecating stories at the beginning, followed by a more serious look at steps individuals can take to help in the "climate crisis. There's no way a professional chose those transitions. Not too subtle. I like Al Gore and his presentation style, but It would be even better if he did not turn his back to the audience or look up at the screen so much. A monitor or PowerBook at the front of the stage should make that unnecessary. Posted at AM Permalink Comments 3. A couple of videos for your weekend viewing pleasure. As I have noted many time before, Al Gore and Guy Kawasaki both get the presentation thing, so here are two new videos of these two presenters in action.

Gore positions himself near his visual and gestures to it appropriately. Nice form. And he has an unexpected way of dealing with an interruption and handling himself in the line of fire in this clip. So what do you do if you get a drunk, wise-cracking robot heckling your speech? Watch and see.

Venture Voice: Blog Archives

Bet you never thought "stiff Al Gore" could be so "animated. See the video also on Google's site ;you can download it there as well. You may have seen him before and read the book, Art of the Start , but Guy is just "on" in this speech. Excellent stuff. Below I list a few of Guy's key "truths" as I jotted them down.

Watch the video to get the whole story. Be in the game to change the world just a little bit by, for example, increasing the quality of life, righting a wrong, or preventing the end of something good. Formulate a word mantra for employees. Mission statements, says, Guy are too long, not unique, and not memorable.

Come to think of it, this describes most business and conference presentations too. Get after it. Just do it. Think different. Don't be afraid to polarize people. If it's good, it will surely be hated by some. Jump to the next curve. Be specific. Ask women see the video. You may actually write a pager in the end lord knows most are longer even than that , but the one-pager is an excellent exercise.

And if you can not get your plan on one page, then you may be in trouble. Think in terms of milestones , write them down. Shoot for the milestones. Write down your assumptions. Make it your task to reach those milestones and test your assumptions. Create something unique that only you can do.

You must be unique and be of great value. Get your story down before you make the pitch. Guy says 10 slides if you are pitching to VC. Keep it to 20 minutes. If you have an hour meeting, why present for only 20 minutes? Guy quips:. Never ever read your slides. Say's Guy, "if you start reading your material because you do not know your material, the audience is very quickly going to figure out that you are a bozo.

Hire not just on education and experience, but look too for those who love what you do. Hire people better than yourself. Make it easy for people find you, use your products. Embrace your evangelist community. Let people test drive; find the influencers. People will tell you that you can't do it. You will be tempted to believe them. But even the brightest have been wrong many times. Be careful not to let bozo advice keep you from implementing a dream.

Here's a little bonus as a follow-up to the last post. This is another example of Guy Kawasaki, but not of the "stand and deliver" variety of presentation. This example is very different. Here Guy is having a one-on-one interview on stage with eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar , in a sort of "fireside chat with a friend" watch the video.

This video was shot five years ago at a Garage event in London. While the camera work and audio are not the best, I think Guy does a great job. And while Guy can talk on stage for hours all by himself, in this setting he is hardly talking at all. Appropriately, it is the guest who does most of the talking. Wonderful content and an excellent job of interviewing. Frankly, it is better than most of the stuff you see on the cable news networks these days in the U.

I'd like to see Guy have a show where he interviews a different entrepreneur every week — kind of a " Charlie Rose of Silicon Valley" kind of thing. If not CNN, how about a podcast? In the interview you'll learn Omidyar's responses to a host of different items. For example:. Thanks to Craig Montgomery at Digressions for creating a wonderful summary of the key points in Guy's interview.

Go read the rest of the summary on Craig's site. You could print this out and give to your management students after you've watched the video in class. Posted at PM Permalink Comments 0. While poking around the web today I found previously unseen videos unseen by me, that is of three business presenters I've talked about here many times: Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, and Tom Peters.

All three have extensive business experience in Silicon Valley and a Stanford connection and all three have great stories to tell and useful content to share. All three — no surprise — "get" the presentation thing and have worked to hone their style and improve their message and delivery over the years. If you watch the clips from the links below you'll notice that there is nothing traditional or conventional in their approaches to public speaking. Their respective styles are not exactly the kind of public speaking you'd see at your local Toastmasters meeting an organization I highly respect and recommend, by the way.

Still, it works for them. All three use slides in their talks; Guy no more than ten, Tom more than one hundred, Seth somewhere in between. The number of slides doesn't matter. What matters is that the visuals have an important role, but a supportive role. A complementary role.

See video clip. Seth is a hot ticket, and an expensive one at that. I've read his books and get his story. But what a difference it is to see someone like Seth speak "his story" in a minute presentation. It'd be much better live in person, but via video is not bad either. Books are great, but nothing beats seeing the person speak from his heart; the non-verbal communication adds so much. This minute clip is of Seth speaking at Google earlier this year.

Guy here takes "Silicon Valley casual" to another level. I've seen Guy speak many times. He even did a few talks for me when I was at Apple. Audiences love him and appreciate his casual, frank style. In this short clip, Guy's so relaxed he's sitting on a desk. Depending where you are in the world, you may find his style "too casual. Both Guy and Seth have a relaxed, casual, "California style.

The suit and tie may be appropriate in New York or London, but in Silicon Valley, wearing a suit and a tie is a good way to look like an outsider. See three clips here on the Washington Speakers Bureau site; right column. Tom is famous for his books and his rants. I saw Tom present once when I worked in the Valley and loved his talk.

I remember that he was very passionate, mobile talk about working the room! In fact, he used the term "pissed off" on more that one occasion. His slides? I'll get to those later. Let me know what you think of these presenters the good, bad, etc. Posted at AM Permalink Comments 0. Home Archives About Subscribe. Pink calls this aptitude Symphony: "Symphony Here's an excerpt from Jobs' closing comments: " Phil is a fantastic drummer, so the interviewer asked Phil about the idea of singing lead vocal and playing drums at the same time: "Most songs are vocally driven.

Perhaps you've heard this line before: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. Carter did a fantastic job. Sure, she would have been even better, at least from a "professional speaker" point of view, if she had not read from a script. She was at her best in those moments when she did not read. But though she used a script, it was nonetheless coming straight from the heart.

That was obvious. She let it hang out there. She wore her heart on her sleeve. She connected. Majora delivered the goods.



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